March 15, 2014

jeffyOver 10 years ago, I had brain tumour surgery and I was cognitively impaired as a result. It means that I have problems with planning, organising and my memory. I also suffer from fatigue, social isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts.

I was unable to continue with my studies, lost my job and lost my friends because they saw me differently.

Having this mental health problem is worse than being bankrupt, because with the latter society will accept you after 6 years, whereas mental health problems are for life.

If you have a mental health problem, which is not so obvious to people, they will treat you as a normal person

If you have a physical health problem, people can see you need help and you can get reasonable adjustment, e.g. a ramp for a person in a wheelchair. But if you have a mental health problem, which is not so obvious to people, they will treat you as a normal person. No reasonable adjustment will be offered, unless you disclose you have mental health problems. This often prevents many people from disclosing their problems as they fear being judged unfavourably.

If there is one thing that has made a difference to me it is finding out about the work placement scheme (Transitional Employment Program (TEP) run by the day centre that I attend. I was so impressed by how the program can help people with mental health problems get back to work, I am writing a book to promote TEP to more employers. I felt TEP gives people a chance to show they can be a valuable member of society thus improving their confidence. At the same time, they can learn new skills and improve their CVs. It is my hope that my book will broaden the help for people who suffer from mental health problems in silence.

A friend asked me if I wanted to do some public speaking about mental health

Recently I had a very inspiring telephone conversation with a friend named Jo, who I met at an event, which was focusing on self development. Jo is applying the knowledge she learnt from the self development event and developing her public speaking skills. She asked me whether I wanted to do public speaking on mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace and I replied “Yes”. I was excited by this idea of speaking in front of audiences. (I will come back with an update after my first talk).

Her belief in my ability to do this has been a tremendous boost to my self confidence

She was very positive about this and felt my experience with mental health issues would be a very valuable story to tell. She volunteered to be my accountability buddy to ensure I carry out my speaking practice. Her belief in my ability to do this has been a tremendous boost to my self confidence and self esteem.

I’ve been inspired to speak out about my mental health because of the positive response I received when I disclosed my past history to my colleagues. They were amazed at what I had been through and impressed with the way I have come through it. One of my colleagues remarked that if you hadn't told us about your history, I would just have thought of you as an average guy, may be struggling a little because English is not your first language.

I think it is important to remember that not all reaction from the general public is negative and sharing can have a very positive and uplifting effect.

When I told my friends that I am going to talk about my mental health experience on stage, they said “Wow -good for you. You have a lot to tell. Your story will inspire many people and give them hope. That it is not just a dream, it is achievable. You are a living example.”

I would like to help more people so that they don’t feel they are alone with their troubles. It is rewarding to feel that I am helping other people.

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